When analyzing tumors, geneticists must trace the progression of a cancer beginning as early in its development as possible. Researchers are becoming increasingly more aware that thorough analysis of a tumor when it first is discovered may not be sufficient to help treat patients properly.
"We're finding clinically relevant information in the tumor samples we're sequencing for discovery-oriented research studies," Dr. Elaine Mardis, co-director of The Genome Institute at the Washington University School of Medicine and leader of a team of researchers, told Science Daily. "Genome analysis can play a role at multiple time points during a patient's treatment, to identify 'driver' mutations in the tumor genome and to determine whether cells carrying those mutations have been eliminated by treatment."
As a result of the research, scientists believe that treatments used to combat certain cancers could be prescribed to patients who suffer from cancers with tumors exhibiting similar genetic compositions. Instead of classifying cancers based on which part of the body they attack, researchers believe genetic makeup may be more important in predicting progression of cancer and possible treatments.
Even then, different patients could possess tumors with dissimilar traits that change throughout their evolution, but this is a common hallmark of personalized medicine. As this blog reported last month, these same researchers also discovered that treatments that target the original cluster of cancer cells, not the ones that are the result of mutations during the evolution process, are more likely to be effective.
As researchers continue to develop new techniques that use DNA sequencing of tumors to treat patients, diagnostic laboratories need to be able to process a significant amount of data efficiently. Mardis and her team have performed extensive analysis on the genetic makeup of cancer cells in more than 700 patients, which shows the sort of rigorous attention that is required when conducting genetic analysis.
This article is brought to you by Slone Partners, a leading laboratory recruitment firm in the emerging sciences of molecular, clinical, and in-vitro diagnostics, anatomic pathology and personalized medicine.
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